I wish I were fishing with Bill Belichick right now.
Actually, that’s not really true. I get seasick if I stay in the bathtub for too long, so boats aren’t really my thing. I realize that this is borderline blasphemy if you’re a New Englander, but what can you do. It would be awesome to be hanging out with Belichick during these few weeks away from football, though - that guy seems like he can really party.
But since I’m stuck in the city while everyone else enjoys their summer, may as well keep cranking out the Top 20 Most Memorable New England Patriots Moments of 2020.
The list so far:
20. A diving N’Keal Harry grab in the end zone makes it a game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
19. A last second 51 yard Nick Folk field goal caps off a comeback win against the New York Jets.
18. Two red zone trips, zero total points against the Kansas City Chiefs.
17. A fourth down option read to James White puts the Patriots on the board against the Arizona Cardinals.
16. A last-second goal line stand prevents the Patriots from stealing a game on the road against the Seattle Seahawks.
15. A nonsensical blindside blocking flag negates an 82 yard punt return for a touchdown against the Arizona Cardinals.
14. Derrick Carr is strip sacked in the end zone to put six points on the board and put the game away against the Las Vegas Raiders.
13. A goal line stand just before halftime keeps the game close against the Arizona Cardinals.
12. The Patriots debut the RPO offense against the Miami Dolphins.
11. Rex Burkhead hurdles into the end zone just before halftime against the Las Vegas Raiders.
10. The Patriots sign Cam Newton.
9. Cam Newton hits Damiere Byrd for a 42 yard touchdown bomb against the Houston Texans.
8. Jakobi Meyers connects with Rex Burkhead in the end zone to take a 14-10 lead into the half against the Baltimore Ravens.
I usually don’t rank moments that came in a loss this high - but this was a weird season, and I feel like our Number 7 Moment captures the essence of the 2020 Patriots perfectly.
7. A last minute fumble short-circuits an epic comeback attempt against the Buffalo Bills.
The Buffalo Bills have been nipping at the Patriots’ heels for what seems like 10 years now. They always seem to load up every offseason, and they’re always a hot pick to dethrone New England atop the AFC East. And every year, the Pats would smack the Bills around twice on their way to another division title as Buffalo struggled to reach .500.
2020, however, was a different story. Buffalo FINALLY could boast the best quarterback in the division with Josh Allen, and they were fairly solid on both sides of the ball. They ended up sweeping the Patriots for the first time since 1999, defeating them at Gillette on Monday Night 38-9 in what was one of New England’s more substantial whoopings of the entire season. The 2020 Bills were a better team than the 2020 Patriots, and the win/loss record reflected that.
However, in the hubbub of the season as a whole, it’s easy to forget what was one of the better games of the year, when the Patriots traveled to Buffalo on November 1st for the first matchup of the campaign. Both teams were a little slow to start, but as the game went on the Patriots and Bills exchanged blows for the entire contest. The Bills never led by more than a single score, and every time it looked like they were going to pull away, the defense made a play and the offense capitalized. The Patriots racked up 188 yards on the ground and held Josh allen to just 154 yards passing. They did, however, give up almost 200 rushing yards; when two teams combine for almost 400 ground yards, then every single possession counts. After the Patriots finally tied the game at 21 after a seven play, 72 yard drive, Buffalo was able to drive down the field to kick a FG with just over four minutes to play to retake the lead. The Patriots had scored touchdowns on their last two drives, and would now be getting the ball with four minutes to play and the chance to win it with a touchdown.
As Patriots fans, we all would have known how it would have ended in years past; Tommy B would lead the Patriots down the field for the touchdown, and then Buffalo would commit a game-sealing turnover to give New England the W. But with these Patriots, sitting at 2-4 on a three game losing skid, nobody had any idea what to expect.
Given the success they had had on the ground thus far, they didn’t see a need to deviate from that. A series of Cam Newton runs, Damien Harris stretch runs, and short completions to Jakobi Meyers, the Patriots were able to make it down to the Buffalo 19 yard line with just 37 seconds to play. The game was as good as tied; the only question was if Cam Newton could engineer a classic Brady 4th quarter comeback.
On 2nd and 10, with everyone spread out wide, Newton took the snap and immediately took off toward the left sideline. Great blocks from Rex Burkhead and Isaiah Wynn got him to the second level, and he had a nice seam that looked good for at least another first down, probably more. However, chasing Newton down was defensive lineman Justin Zimmer, who made a beautiful diving chop at Newton’s arm as he ran, knocking the ball loose. Newton was almost able to reel it back in, but he lost it, and it fell right into the waiting arms of safety Dean Marlowe. He fell on the ball, and that was the end of that. Buffalo 24, New England 21. The Patriots had just lost four in a row and the Bills had the kind of November stranglehold on the division that the team they just beat knew all too well.
Up until that fumble, everything about the end of this game was exciting, suspenseful, and classic Patriots. Holding the Bills to a field goal so that a TD would win it. Getting the ball back with four minutes left to play. Converting some huge third downs. Getting right down to the opponent’s red zone. Usually, the narrative ended with yet another Brady-led 4th quarter comeback, but this time it just wasn’t meant to be. However, this kind of edge-of-your-seat, anything goes, can they pull it off tension is exactly what makes football so great, and Tebow knows that New England has been on the happy end of this exchange plenty over the past few decades. But much like the 2020 Patriots as a whole, moments of greatness, flashes of brilliance, and displays of true talent never quite came together with the consistency and frequency you need to make a deep run in the NFL, and so this play is more or less a microcosm of the team we all watched last season. Because of that, I don’t feel bad ranking it here at Number 7.
Check out the fumble here.
Full game highlights here.